KAWAGOE, JAPAN (AFP) – Rory McIlroy thundered into contention as world number five Xander Schauffele shot 63 to grab the clubhouse lead before weather halted play for a second time yesterday at the Olympic golf tournament.
American Schauffele shot an eight-under par round to lead at 11-under, a shot clear of Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz (67), when play was stopped because of a severe storm with six groups still yet to finish.
Earlier, Ireland’s four-time major champion McIlroy shrugged off the day’s first delay for lightning, which lasted more than two hours, to finish four shots behind Schauffele.
Japan home favourite and US Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama shook off the mental fatigue he suffered on Thursday in his first tournament for six weeks since contracting coronavirus, and was eight-under with two holes to play, having picked up six birdies.
McIlroy, without a cap with no sponsor to please, took off with a brilliant birdie-birdie-eagle run from the sixth hole.
“I sort of played similarly to how I played yesterday,” said McIlroy after his five-under par round on the 7,447-yard par-71 course softened by days of rain.
“I just played the par-fives better. I played the par-fives in even par yesterday and I played them in three-under today and that’s the difference between the two scores. So yeah, it was good.”
Birdies at 14 and 17 took McIlroy briefly to eight-under par before an errant drive at the final hole saw only his second dropped shot in a round of 66.
It proved a great day for Team Ireland as Shane Lowry carded a superb six-under 65 to move level with McIlroy meaning the pair, both resplendent in traditional green, could play in the same group today.
“It’s not like we would be out there helping each other, but we’re definitely trying to produce at least one medal for the team,” said Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion
“We would be out there kind competing against each other, but it would be nice to be playing with a friend and a really good golfer.”
Surprise first-round leader Sepp Straka of Austria fell off the pace by going to the turn in two-over 38 but recovered and a birdie at the last gave him a level-par 71.
Also in the clubhouse on eight-under par 134 were Chile’s Mito Pereira (65) and Sweden’s Alex Noren (67).